Rocks and Fish – Marc Woodward

Rocks and Fish
(after Cavatina by Andy Brown)

“…becoming someone else, like rocks in rising tides”
you say – but I wonder if the opposite’s true:
that actually we emerge from swilling waters,
the ocean receding to leave us bare, exposed
to weathering. The sun and ice, bake and shatter.

Mine is a more obvious metaphor of course,
and on reflection I think yours more accurate.
Are we ever more perfect than when we are young?
Newly cleaved, salt washed and as yet barnacle free.
What then follows is our gradual dissolution
in the hydrosphere of energy and nothing.

Steam swirls and condenses as I lie in the bath
shaving with my right hand, while my Parkinson’s left
flaps mindlessly – like a fish urgent for the sea

 

Marc Woodward is a poet and musician resident in rural Devon. He has been widely published and his recent collections include  A Fright Of Jays  (Maquette 2015), and Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press 2018).
and is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marcwoodwardartist 
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Elevenses at the dunes’ end – Beth McDonough

Elevenses at the dunes’ end

We settle for the safety of scones,
in the bistro bedecked
with an astroturf floor.

Wiry seats, but if we like
we can sit on that bright plastic grass
which extends over benches, up walls.

In midday’s heavy gloom,
netted fairy lights out-starry glass
on the half-tented garden’s low roof.

Had we just waited for night,
a huge orange moon might spacehopper in,
all squint rubber grin and bent ears.

The scones were home-made and light.

 

Beth McDonough’s poetry appears in Causeway, Shooter Agenda and elsewhere; she reviews in DURA. Handfast (2016, with Ruth Aylett) explores family experiences of dementia and autism. A pamphlet is coming…

My Wedding Dress Hangs There – Kitty Coles

My Wedding Dress Hangs There

limply uninhabited.
Its narrowness reproaches
my immensity.

It glows like a ghost,
dyed pink
by the unstaunched twilight.

The tiny buttons align themselves
like teeth. The lace
is a galaxy, cold constellations.

The polluted surf
of the hem churns,
stained with mud.

 

Kitty Coles’ poems have been widely published and have been nominated for the Forward Prize and Best of the Net. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016: her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com

The Lark’s Field – Tom Moody

The Lark’s Field

We’d lie hidden in patches of soft grass.
Flat circles where horses had lain down
among waist-high cocksfoot, sorrel and dock.
Concealed by coarse-stemmed couch.
Worlds away from the nearby town.

We’d chew on timothy stem, rest easy
while distant dots that were larks,
scrabbled above us, rising and dropping,
bobbing upwards like bubble-streams
in a cream-soda glass.

 

Tom Moody has an MA in creative writing (Newcastle). Published work includes articles, short stories, radio script and poetry in:, Orbis, Three Drops from the Cauldron, Indigo Dreams, Algebra of Owls, Ink Sweat & Tears, Riggwelter, Ink Tears, and Prole.

Featured Publication – Eighty Four anthology, Curated by Helen Calcutt

Our featured publication for June is Eighty Four: Poems on Male Suicide, Vulnerability, Grief and Hope, curated by Helen Calcutt, published by Verve Poetry Press.

“Eighty Four is a new anthology of poetry on the subject of male suicide in aid of CALM.

Curated by poet Helen Calcutt, the anthology features a host of male and female voices sharing their experiences of suicide, mental health, or grief – from those who have been on the brink of suicide, to those who have lost a loved one, or been moved more generally by the campaign. It is both an uncensored exposure of truths, as well as a celebration of the strength and courage of those willing to write and talk about their experiences, using the power of language to openly address and tackle an issue that directly affects a million people every year.” Verve Poetry Press

84 COVER NEWER FRONT

 

A Dream

You were on the river, heading away downstream,
your powerful shoulders working the paddle –
dip, pull, lift, dip, pull – each stoke a perfect slice
through the black water, that gathered and ruckled
about the blade – lift, dip, pull –

as in the time we were on the river together,
that autumn morning of mist drifting up through
the highbanked trees and the fine rain that soaked
our clothes and skin and hair and made us happy.
A good time. The two of us together on the river.

Now you were alone and it was night.
I was leaning on the windowsill, looking out
and if you had turned you would have seen me there,
a ghost face at the glass haunting your leaving.
You did not look back. All your concentration

strained towards the journey you were making
and I was powerless to stop you, just as I was powerless
to turn away from watching. No call of mine
would bring you back. For payment, the river
had taken my voice, and I was forbidden to enter

where you were going.

David Calcutt

 

The decision room

There’s a deep frost, salt-crisp, and if I lick it
I’ll taste the very end of the night before,
when you shut your front door, went upstairs
to where there was only just enough air left for
one breath and only just enough time to decide.

And somewhere in that pitch-dark space
where your breath finished in your lungs
you shaped the beginning of your end.

It is your pre-jump. Your vault. You step from
your body, two foot from where my bed is now,
without the slightest hope of a second chance ‒
leave it behind like a moon blighted by clouds.

You tugged open every drawer and they stuttered
on rough wooden runners, hung lopsided and you
pulled sweater after sweater, shirt after shirt, until
deciding what to die in became impossible.

It is 5am when the police come. Ice-white fields
aren’t yet disturbed, nothing creaks.
The doorbell’s shrill is a terrible wrong.

I’m thinking about the coldness of morgues
and have so many clothes to keep me warm ‒
a shoddy dropped mess of them, a pulled out,
thrown down, skinless you.

Most times I remember the whole of you, but
sometimes I can’t help remembering how far you fell.

Abegail Morley

 

An incident with a train

The local news will describe this as an incident with a train,
because no-one wants to read what really happens
when a solitary human being collides with that velocity
of despair. Official statements will be performed as
preformed – with intent to still. Stress the fullness of investigation,
the minimised disruption to your commute. There will
be no dwelling on the life or the death of it. The convulsing
mother, degraded to salt. The junior police officer
fighting back puke, weighing alternative career options
against the chances of promotion and a desk.
The trembling, day-glo railway worker who yells
at the edging crows, fuck off, fuck OFF. Throwing
stones to ward them from the spoils:

it’s hard, even at the best of times,
to look solemn in a hi-vis vest. It’s hard to hold together.

Paul Howarth

 

Seven Senryu in Memory of Brian Karr Harter (1969-1987)

 

stepping up to the casket my noisy heartbeat

 

my reflection huge in the funeral parlor mirror

 

nearing his gravestone
the letters begin to blur—
January fog

 

remembering his suicide
winter hardens
the soil

 

visiting the graves
my legs sink
in deepening snow

 

remembering his suicide—
……stepping slowly
……across the moonlit bridge

 

remembering his suicide all these acorns

Carrie Etter

 

The Eighty Four anthology is available to buy from the Verve Poetry Press website, in aid of CALM.

Bible Leaf – Elizabeth Rimmer

Bible Leaf

Another name for the herb costmary, which was pressed between the pages of a bible,
for times when the sermon exceeded the usual two hours.

Grey green leaf, as long as a page
of duodecimo, snag-toothed like
a goose-tongue, and scented
with a bitter dusty tang, a depth
between clean sage and mint.
When the preacher has droned
past the slow point of drowsiness
and your fingernails have dug
deep into the heel of your palms,
open the bible and breathe in.
Its fresh sting will wake you,
scold you into puritan shame –
remind you there is light outside,
sunlight, rain and gardens.

 

Elizabeth Rimmer has published three poetry collections with Red Squirrel Press, Wherever We Live Now (2011), The Territory of Rain, (2015) and Haggards (2018), which included poems about herbs, wild landscapes, and ways of knowing, social upheaval and regeneration. www.burnedthumb.co.uk.

Someone is speaking – David Calcutt

Someone is speaking

Someone is speaking out of the willow.
It’s a voice that doesn’t quite fit, a thin,
loose, high-pitched rattle, like a cough
that won’t clear. Others on the lake are
testing their instruments, trying them for size,
pumping, wheezing, shaking them free of
weed and grit. Squeezebox voices that grate
the nerves of the still-sleeping inhabitants
of bank and ditch, making them uneasy,
bringing bad dreams. Something stirring
down there in its bed of thick mud, something
poking about among the boatwrecks and
drownings, something unsettling that clouds
the water with an old longing, an ache that
can’t be eased. Rat’s face, hooked jaw,
the endless, empty, gaping throat. But still
that voice from the willow goes on, hesitant,
but more persistent now, like an attempt
at good fortune against all the odds, and
its notes strike a spark on the hard flint of
the water, shooting a thin line of flame across,
and somehow it lifts, and somehow it takes off,
with a cry like pain, and big wings thumping
towards the hard-won flight.

 

David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and fiction writer, the author of many plays for theatre and radio, five books of poetry and four novels for young people. His latest poetry collection is “The last of the light is not the last of the light” published by Fair Acre Press. He is currently working on two new plays with Midland Actors Theatre.

Saddleworth, 2018 – Kate Noakes

Saddleworth, 2018

Top story from the can’t/won’t remember moor –
fire tinders the heather in its dry mouth

and a boy sleeps in the dark. Not talking
to strangers, could have been, but wasn’t.

I have some sweets for you.

In its purple oven, fire dries wimberries
as bracken crackles, and the boy sleeps on.

I’ll give you a lift.

Fire licks the roots of flax, desiccates sundews
and hides in the decades of peat where he sleeps,

secretly turning him into chips of bone
and the ash that does not blow away.

 

Kate Noakes’ most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet, Parthian, 2019. She lives in London where she acts as a trustee for literature development charity Spread the Word. An elected member of the Welsh Academy of Letters, her website, www.boomslangpoetry.blogspot.com,  is archived by the National Library of Wales.

Scarred – Penny Blackburn

Scarred

Across the valley
the scar has healed,
its long-scrape-scratch softened
as the years have passed.

Ridges worn, edges smoothed
to gentler folds. Dormant
and forgetful of the pain
the glacier brought – its white-weight change
and indifferent cruelty

as it stripped this slice of hill
down to bedrock, left
the borders of itself
for the hardiest, most hopeful ones
to farm.

 

Penny Blackburn writes poetry and flash fiction and enjoys performing at local open mic and spoken word events. She has been published by Writers’ Cafe, Marsden Poetry Village and Paper Swans Press amongst others.

The Order of the Holy Paraclete moves next door – Sarah Mnatzaganian

The Order of the Holy Paraclete moves next door

It’s Saturday. The builders grumble to their wives
about their sunburned backs. The sack-cloth nuns
won’t look them in the eyes.

They dig up the convent car park, tip concrete,
sprinkle holy water. Arthritic nuns need to dwindle
somewhere small and practical.

The sparrows are on holiday in the cemetery hedge,
enjoying their fresh green curtains. They don’t know
that death walks beyond the hawthorns

where the sisters lie in a grassy dormitory, crucifixes
hammered over their heads. There’s space
for ten more, maybe twelve.

Their supervisor frowns down from his wooden cross.
The rain is getting to him. No whispering,
children. Listen to the birds.

 

Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet.  Shortlisted for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition 2016/17, her poems have been published in The North, Fenland Reed, London Grip, Poems in the Waiting Room, As Above, So Below, Write to be Counted and #MeToo a women’s anthology edited by Deborah Alma.  She studies with Peter and Ann Sansom, Heidi Williamson and Moniza Alvi.